KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s “Next Man Up” mantra was in full effect Saturday night, and enough of the young players stepped up to get the victory.
The Vols (4-5) beat Conference USA member Southern Miss (5-4) by a 24-10 count in front of a crowd of 95,551 at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.
Tennessee’s defense forced two turnovers in Golden Eagles’ territory that led to touchdowns and held the Golden Eagles without a touchdown until there was 6:45 left in the game.
The Vols had four sacks and 10 tackles for loss in one of their more impressive efforts of the season.
True freshman QB Will McBride saw the first action of his career and finished 1-of-8 passing for 13 yards in addition to rushing for 8 yards.
McBride came on in relief of redshirt freshman QB Jarrett Guarantano, who left the game in the second quarter with an injured right ankle.
It was Tennessee’s 12th consecutive win against non-conference competition, and the victory enabled the Vols to avoid what would have been their first five-game losing steak since 1988.
Tennessee’s four-game losing streak was its longest since the 2005 team lost four en route to a 5-6 season.
Redshirt freshmen Ryan Johnson (right guard) and Devante Brooks (right tackle) made the first starts of their careers, and true freshman offensive lineman Riley Locklear saw his first-career action.
• Guarantano went 9-of-13 for 102 yards and scored on a 3-yard TD run before leaving the game with a right ankle injury. Guarantano continues to show the improvement expected as he gains experience.
• Junior John Kelly’s 20-yard TD run was vintage, evading would-be tackles to give the Vols a 17-3 lead with 5:15 left in the third quarter. Kelly added a 3-yard TD later in the quarter after consecutive personal-foul penalties on Southern Miss.
• Sophomore defensive end Darrell Taylor had two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass break-up.
• Senior cornerback Emmanuel Moseley returned an interception to the Southern Miss 20 to set up Kelly’s TD run.
• Senior kicker Aaron Medley hit field goals of 38 yards and 30 yards, but the 30-yarder came off the board on account of a personal foul on Southern Miss and led to a Vols’ TD.
• Senior punter Trevor Daniel buried two punts inside the Southern Miss 10-yard line and averaged 49.2 yards per punt.
• Tennessee’s offensive line held its own against the nation’s No. 27-ranked defense despite using a sixth-different combination and having to replace senior center Coleman Thomas in the third quarter. The Vols allowed two sacks — down from an average of six per game the previous three games.
• Tennessee’s injury situation continued to worsen. In addition to Guarantano, receiver Marquez Callaway (ankle, 11:15 third quarter) and center Coleman Thomas (right leg, 9:07 third quarter) left the game with injuries. The Vols had at least 21 scholarship players out of the game.
• Tennessee’s penchant for using the shotgun set in short yardage continues to fail the team. John Kelly was hit in the backfield on a third-and-1 in the third quarter. The Vols failed at opponents’ 1-yard line at Florida, Alabama and Kentucky earlier this season.
• Tennessee junior defensive end Jonathan Kongbo was suspended for the game for an undisclosed reason.